We live in an age of abundant, fast-paced and easily accessible information. Technology and innovation have transformed the way we seek, obtain, share and interact with facts, knowledge, ideas and opinions and provide new platforms for learning, communicating and reporting.

World Press Freedom Day 2021 acknowledges information as a public good and promotes the strengthening of the institutions that produce news for popular consumption. The role of a free and fair press in purveying knowledge and reliable information in a democratic society cannot be understated. A well-informed population is better equipped to make important decisions and adjustments and actively participate in the political, social and economic life of a nation.
The proliferation of news and information is not without serious limitations, particularly in the digital sphere. The constant stream of stories and updates that abound on social media platforms can be overwhelming and misleading and, in the era of Covid-19, even a matter of life and death. Distorted data, conspiracy theories and fake news, circulated at an astounding rate, have created widespread misunderstanding, confusion and division regarding the health and safety protocols of the pandemic.

In this environment, the role of the media in fact-checking, providing evidence-based analysis and breaking down scientific data into easily digestible formats for public intake is critical. As the watchdogs of free speech, they must be vigilant in ensuring that their work adheres to the highest ethical and professional standards and strive to instil and restore confidence in their impartiality and commitment to serving the public interest.

A free and fair press is essential to combating the misinformation that threatens to hinder the response to the pandemic and hamper further social and economic recovery. Members of the public have a vital part to play in exercising prudence in their social media interactions and ensuring that their sources of information are reliable and reputable before sharing. World Press Freedom Day 2021 is an appropriate opportunity for us all to be reminded of the importance of transparent and accurate information in building a strong and sustainable society.